You don’t want your query or manuscript to be “just okay.” Trust me. “Just okay” queries get ignored or trashed. Publishing folks do not care about potential. They want to see excellence.
We are dreamers, us writers. We see in our mind’s eye what our stories can be, and we hope others will have that same clear vision when they enter the story world, but that is rarely the case. We are ruined by the dreamy publication stories of famous authors. We want to take short cuts and hope for the best, because the rat race is sprinting on without us, but all we end up doing is hurting ourselves and our chances and setting ourselves back even further.
Patience. I hate that word. As an author, that word was my nemesis for years. Why? Because everything in this business takes so long. While you’re writing, revising, editing, querying agents, and querying editors, years can pass. And you’re supposed to be patient as you see other writers achieving their dreams and goals. It is so hard not to compare. Not to feel the panic of being left behind. You really have to find that place of Zen in your mind, friends, because the absolute best advice I can give is to embrace patience and see rushing as your nemesis instead. Here is why.
In my early days, I sent my first book to agents without having it critiqued by anyone. I was so filled with hope. And every single agent either said no, or didn’t respond at all (the silent no.) I was lucky enough to have several of the agents tell me their reasons, and they all said the same thing. They loved the concept, but the introduction was too rough. Too much “telling.” So, I went online and found a website where I could upload my story and receive some critical feedback. After six weeks of helpful critiques and revising, I was able to get my story to a much stronger place.
But here’s the problem: I had already queried and been rejected by my dream agents. Many of them ask that you not query them with the same story unless they have requested it, and none of them had requested that from me.
I had squandered my chance at those agents. If I had just waited six weeks. Six weeks of thoughtful revisions. Just a little bit of patience. Instead I ended up saying yes to an unknown agent, and it was not a good fit. I left him after a year, and I feel that many opportunities were wasted in that time. It didn’t have to be that way.
Unless you are a fan of having regrets, take the necessary time to get your manuscript polished prior to querying. Agents and editors don’t know you. They don’t know if you’re a work horse who is willing to make revisions when asked, or if you are the type of writer who refuses to accept critique. So, when your manuscript comes to them “just okay,” they can only assume that’s as good as it’s going to get.
I urge you to have your manuscript fully critiqued prior to querying. There are paid services, like my own, if you have the funds in your budget and want to get it done quickly. If you don’t, many sites allow for the giving and receiving of feedback. Just be aware that on those sites, if you want to get helpful feedback, you must be willing to give it to others, as well. Those types of writing communities run under the idea of “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” A few examples are Wattpad, AbsoluteWrite, GetUnderlined, and AgentQueryConnect.